I took my first forensic science course as a sophomore in high school and it immediately sparked my interest. I began looking around at careers that tied forensics and biology/chemistry together and Embry-Riddle gave me exactly what I was looking for with the Forensic Biology program.
Over the Summer of 2022, I had the wonderful opportunity of working with the Yavapai County Medical Examiner’s Office. From May to July, I gained extensive hands-on experience working with the medical examiner, pathologist’s assistant, and investigators.
I spent most of my time learning and assisting with both external and full autopsies. During external autopsies, I would take photographs, toxicology samples, and log property/evidence in the Medicolegal Death Investigations portal. I would have the same responsibilities during full autopsies, but in addition, I would assist with eviscerations. This included taking organ weights, sewing up the body, taking fingerprints, and cleaning down the autopsy room. I was also taught how to remove the brain and shown how to take out other organs. The autopsies were an incredible learning experience, and I gained a lot of hands-on knowledge.
Later, I learned how to remove other organs with the help from the pathologist’s assistant. When I wasn’t assisting with autopsies, I was packaging toxicology samples or helping the investigators with any tasks they needed. I proofread reports, organized case files, filled out case forms, and uploaded documents.
The most exciting work with the investigators was going out to scenes. During my internship I was able to go to scenes with the different investigators. I assisted with writing down information and helping transport the body.
One of my final tasks was to complete a presentation on environmental pathology. It was a neat little presentation and I got to cover many different concepts. I presented to the medical examiner, pathologist’s assistant, and investigators in the final week of my internship. I learned a lot of new information and was able to share that with the rest of the office.
The most challenging aspect of working at the Medical Examiner’s office was getting used to the routine protocols for every individual case. It’s important for everything to be done a specific way and with great care. It took some time to fully adjust, but I was apart of an amazing team that guided me along the way. With the hands-on experience I gained from this internship, I’ll be working towards crime scene investigation after graduation and eventually a position in a crime lab.
There were many different courses at Embry-Riddle that helped me along my journey as an intern. Most notably, the anatomy, trace evidence and forensic courses provided some prior knowledge that coincided with my work as intern. Some of the labs also helped when it came to proper biohazard and decontamination protocols. There were many opportunities to apply what I had learned to a real-world example.
The Medical Examiner’s office provided a great deal of experience, and everyone was willing to help me grow as an intern. It was an incredible experience to work with the medical examiner and pathologist’s assistant on the variety of cases and I know this internship will help me with any future endeavors.
My name is Kylie Cantrell. I am a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott Campus, earning my degree in Forensic Biology with a minor in Security and Intelligence Studies. I chose my major because I have always been fascinated with forensics. I took a forensic science exploratory in the 8th grade and have always had the goal to learn more about the field.
In the summer of 2022, I interned for Freeport-McMoRan at the Climax Mine in Leadville, Colorado. My title was an Industrial Hygienist for the Health and Safety Department. At Climax, I learned how to sample heavy equipment (haul trucks, graders, loaders, drills, etc.) for dust, silica, and diesel particulate matter (DPM) in the cabs. My project was to study the ventilation systems in the heavy equipment during sampling to see if I can make the air cleaner in the cabs for the operators. I used SKC Airchek Pumps with several kinds of filter cassettes to test for the particulates in the air. I wrote notes about the weather, the condition of the equipment, where the sampling pumps were set and anything else that may be important to note. After the sampling period is over, the cassettes are sent to the lab. Documentation such as the pump number, notes taken in the field and results are all added to software called Cority.
When sampling the mine for dust/silica and DPM, I would normally choose 3 pieces of heavy equipment per sampling day. In the image here, the tubes on the right are attached to the cyclones that hold the media that trap the particulates I am testing for. The large white container is what I would use for calibrating the pumps. There is a blank filter on a cyclone inside with one tube connected to a pump. The other is connected to the calibrator (the device with two yellow caps). There are also dosimeters in the picture which are placed on the shirt collar of an operator to check the noise levels they are exposed to while operating the equipment.
The reagent we used releases carbon disulfide which can be harmful to Climax employees. The pump above the launderer has a 226-01 filter that traps the carbon disulfide as the pump runs. The sampling period is approximately 5 hours, and the results are sent to a lab for analysis. In the images above, I am holding a Photo-Ionization Detector (PID) that measures the carbon disulfide in the air and gives immediate results. Both methods are used because the pump will sample over a longer period, whereas the PID gives real-time data. Since the molybdenum is not flowing in the launderer at a constant rate, the carbon disulfide levels can differ within a couple of minutes or a few hours. It is important to see both sets of data.
The classes at Embry-Riddle that really helped me were Instrumental Analysis and Trace Evidence, Biochemistry, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and General Biology and Chemistry. Trace Evidence prepared me to write a chain of custody on all the samples turned into the lab. Biochemistry was useful in understanding how the human body reacts with different minerals being inhaled such as elemental dust and silica. Anatomy and Physiology gave me a basic understanding of how silicosis forms and affects the alveoli in the lungs. General Biology and Chemistry are important for any industrial hygienist to know the basics. Although my internship did not pertain to forensics, I was able to put my major and minor to use. I also got to learn a lot about the mining industry and work around some very cool trucks.
This experience has opened my eyes to new possibilities and I really enjoyed my time at Climax. I am very interested in the mining industry and I would love to continue with Freeport-McMoRan after college. I enjoyed working with so many people from different departments and working together towards one major goal. There is always something new to learn in mining!
The summer after my graduation (2022) I had the opportunity to be an intern at the Phoenix Police Department. During my time at the department, I was fortunate to work under many advisors in numerous departments including the Community Engagement Bureau, the Phoenix Police Crime lab and the HR fiscal department. In total, I was working alongside officers, office workers and forensic scientist IV supervisors.
Coming into this internship, I had a better understanding of the forensic science aspect of law enforcement but I was able to gain more knowledge about the fieldwork that goes into responding to calls. During my time shadowing different departments, I was able to go on a helicopter ride along, patrol ride-alongs, shadow each specialty in the lab, conduct preliminary analysis of evidence, participate in community events and the POPAT, and shadow dispatch stations. I learned more about the whole process of a call in place, protocols in the lab and how evidence is properly handled. I am incredibly honored to announce as well that I was the first intern back in the laboratory since COVID (roughly 2 ½ years).
Overall, my education at Embry-Riddle has benefited me in this internship greatly. Classes that I felt were a significant help to my success in this program were Investigation Methods, Analysis & Trace Evidence, Forensic DNA, Courts & Criminal Justice and Intro to US Legal System. Each of these courses had a significant impact on my success. I felt that the law classes were beneficial when conducting ride-alongs and for handling paperwork and the science-based classes have been very helpful when touring the labs because I was provided with a basic understanding of each of the processes and how they impact each section.
This internship has had a positive impact on my choices for future career aspirations. Prior to the internship, I did not have an interest in the law enforcement/sworn side of investigations. During the internship, I was able to work with recruiters and partake in the POPAT that is required to enter the academy. Since I was an intern and college graduate, I was part of the first group of applicants to be tested using a traveling POPAT exam for recruiters to take on the road to test applicants. I was also able to take the standardized POPAT, and once I noticed I passed both, I knew this was a career I could lead into.
My top priority, though, is to still enter and work in the crime lab. I have been able to make many connections with forensic scientists and learned that many of them were volunteers themselves prior to being hired in the lab. This has provided me with reassurance that I am on the right track to being an official employee of the department.
With my major, I am confident in either of the two choices I have at hand since I have been prepared for success from Embry-Riddle.
My name is MaeLee DeVries and I am a senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Prescott, Arizona. I am majoring in Forensic Biology and I am interested in trace evidence, which is why I chose the research topic of trace evidence of makeup. We’ve all seen it on crime shows, there’s a piece of evidence that could not have been found, but somehow the investigators are always able to trace it back to the perpetrator in the end. While that is not wholly reality, it is not completely far from the truth either. Trace evidence can be very difficult to deal with because it is difficult to see, difficult to handle, and even more difficult to avoid cross contamination. However, if done properly, the analysis performed on trace evidence can corroborate stories and determine the truth. This is why I wanted to do this research because the more data there is, the stronger statistical values can be, which can create more conclusive evidence. Hopefully, this research helps contribute to a usable and searchable database for makeup to help investigators speed up investigation processes and be more objective in their investigations. After all, objectivity is one of the main goals of evidence-based research because it excludes bias and seeks the truth.
To be able to do this research, I had the privilege of receiving a Space Grant and being selected to be funded for an Ignite Undergraduate Research Project during the fall semester of 2020. The goal of this research was to support and develop a method for easily distinguishing the morphological and chemical features of various lipsticks and eyeshadow palette samples. There is a lot of data that still needs to be collected in trace evidence analysis of makeup research to fill the gap of information that exists; therefore, this research will demonstrate nondestructive analysis techniques that can help trace the evidence back to its source by providing more data that can be utilized in crime laboratories to assist in solving crimes. As the project leader and the only student on this project, my duties were to prepare the research samples, analyze the samples using a light microscope, Fourier-Transform Electron Microscopy (FTIR), and learn how to use the Scanning Electron Microscope in tandem with an Energy Dispersive Spectrometer (SEM/EDS) to analyze the potentially toxic chemicals within and individualistic characteristics of the different brands of makeup samples
In this research my mentor, Dr. Teresa Eaton and I studied three different brands of eyeshadow and two different brands of lipstick. Originally, we were going to study six different brands of eyeshadow palettes; however, due to this being my last semester, time constraints did not allow me to study all of the samples I would have liked to; therefore, we studied palettes from Maybelline, Revlon, and Milani and a red lipstick sample and a pink lipstick sample each from Milani, and Wet n Wild. I did, however, run into some hiccups along the way, which is nothing new if you are familiar with research. First, preparing the samples took much longer than expected due to the meticulous cleaning and recleaning of materials to avoid cross contamination. When dealing with evidence, this is paramount. The second problem I ran into had to do with the SEM/EDS. While I was in the middle of viewing and analyzing my samples, the filament on the SEM/EDS burned out, putting my entire project to a halt. The filament allows for the visualization of the samples because that is where the electron beam originates, which without, the visualization is not possible. Obviously, I cannot research blindly; however, the kind Dr. Lanning (pictured above) came to my rescue, replacing the filament within hours. These roadblocks were impeding, but I got past them and was able to complete what I could of my research.
I analyzed a total of 37 samples viewed under the light microscope and analyzed using FTIR and 41 on the SEM/EDS, so a lot of samples were run, just not all of the samples I wanted to analyze. The techniques used were not invasive, other than the SEM/EDS and were able to discriminate between palettes, but not individual samples. FTIR was not invasive and quick, but only showed a fingerprint, while SEM/EDS was destructive, but showed the chemical composition and only used a very small amount of sample.
Optical Microscopy Images
FTIR Spectra and Data
As you can see, Figure 1, 2, and 3 demonstrate the light microscopic view of a Milani eyeshadow sample, a Maybelline eyeshadow sample, and a Revlon eyeshadow sample, respectively. In my observations, I noted signature red-pink circular particles in nearly all of the Milani eyeshadow colors, which can help distinguish the samples from other palettes. In the Maybelline reflective eyeshadow sample glass-like and other reflective and metallic-like particles were noted, which were consistent with most of the shiny and glimmering samples. The Revlon eyeshadow was fine and fibrous, which was common throughout the more neutral and less glittery and shiny eyeshadows.
Graphs 1 and 2 are both FTIR spectra and show that there is a broad band at around 1000 in both sub-samples 1b and 2b. This was the same amongst nearly all of them, but other peaks helped differentiate between palettes based on what the chemical fingerprint was most likely related to. Most of the sub-samples from Sample 1 (Maybelline) were related to TALC, most of the sub-samples from Sample 2 (Revlon) were related to silicon, and most of the sub-samples from Sample 4 (Milani) were related to paraffin. This simple information is significant due to the differentiation it provides between palettes.
SEM/EDS Images and Data
Figure 4 shows the SEM image of eyeshadow sub-sample 2a by Revlon. The elemental composition is shown to the right demonstrating that there are two heavy metals that were not expected to be within this sample, Tc and Bi. Both are not toxic at low levels.
Figure 5 shows the SEM image of eyeshadow sub-sample 1i by Maybelline, which demonstrates expected heavy metals such as Fe, Cu, and Zn.
Figure 6 shows the SEM image of eyeshadow sub-sample 4e by Milani. Again, expected heavy metal content is observed as well as cylinders of carbon suspected to be some form of microplastics.
Figure 7 shows the SEM image of lipstick sample 16 by Wet n wild. Expected chemical composition is seen.
Finally, Figures 4, 5, 6, and 7 show the images from the SEM and the chemical composition from the EDS for eyeshadow and lipstick samples. Figure 6 shows that there are some heavier more toxic chemicals in the sample compared to the other samples, but these chemicals are not toxic to humans at very low quantities. There were no distinct chemical differences between the palettes other than Sample 2, which had Technetium and/or Bismuth in several of the samples. The SEM images were quite fascinating to look at, and while each sample did look different in its own way, it would be a subjective way to look at evidence and as I said earlier, that is not the goal of trace evidence.
My final results for this research project indicated that the chemical analysis techniques, FTIR and EDS, can potentially differentiate between palettes, but not individual sub-samples, while the optical microscopy techniques, light microscopy, and SEM, may be useful in differentiating between sub-samples in color and morphology. However, as I mentioned above, this process is much more subjective, and it is important to have objective methods of analysis in trace evidence. This analysis is not discriminatory enough by itself to differentiate between individual sub-samples, though it may be useful for differentiating between palettes. In the end, there was ample data gathered that demonstrated elemental, morphological, and spectroscopic properties of the samples for results and future analyses.
In conclusion, I hope this is not the end of this research because there is so much potential that this type of research has to assist crime laboratories in reaching the truth faster and more objectively. The opportunity I have had with this research project has yielded great experience and understanding for me in the future. Personally, I want to be a forensic DNA analyst, which must be an objective analysis technique, because the main goal is providing the truth. Not who we think did it. DNA analysis uses databases, which are crucial to conclusions; however, DNA cannot act alone in submission of evidence. Stories and other trace evidence must align in order for the truth to be found; therefore, other forms of trace evidence are vital and necessary. I love science and the potential it holds. After all, it is prepared to provide the truth, if we handle and analyze it properly.
My name is Veronica Rodriguez. I am a senior majoring in Forensic Biology with a minor in Psychology. What made me interested in majoring in Forensic Biology was wanting to understand the fundamentals of forensics. I had the mentally that it is just like the television shows. Unfortunately, it was not what I had expected. It challenged me in so many ways. I am truly thankful for everything that I have learned with this major. It has taught me to work for the truth and to find the facts. I choose Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University due to its amazing reputation. It also has a great Biology and Chemistry Department that has been very supportive in the process. Throughout my courses at Embry-Riddle it has prepared me for one of the best experiences in my educational career.
In the summer of 2020, I was able to obtain an
internship with Yavapai County Medical Examiner’s Office in Prescott Valley,
Arizona. I was hired as an intern and my duties were to assist the medicolegal death
investigators (MDIs) and the forensic pathologist. This office is unique since
the MDIs not only investigate their cases and go to scenes but, they also help perform
autopsies with the forensic pathologist as well. I was super nervous at first
since I had no idea what to expect on my first day at the office.
After being more comfortable at the office, I attended death scenes and interacted with other law enforcement agencies to conduct proper investigations. I learned how to properly document photos of the decedent, property, and evidence with a digital camera. I was really proud of myself that I was able to apply what I have learned in my courses to real life. I also learned the process of how the MDIs produce reports, gather information, and create death certificates. Other responsibilities I had during the internship were to perform autopsies, take toxicology specimens, and take fingerprints of the decedent on my own.
Embry-Riddle has prepared me for this internship with the courses I have taken. Anatomy and Physiology has allowed me to understand the different organs and the functions of the body. It has also taught me how the body is supposed to work and what happens when something goes wrong. Trace Evidence and Investigative Methods and Forensics allowed me to understand how a scene is investigated and how to collect evidence in a way that preserves it; this knowledge was useful when I had to retrieve fingernail clippings from a homicide victim. Procedural Law and Evidence course allowed me to be familiar with the importance of search warrants, chain of custody, and the Arizona statutes that apply for the Medical Examiner’s Office. Being able to apply the knowledge from my courses further reinforced what I have learned and made it clearer during my internship.
This internship has allowed me to find a career
path that I really enjoy. I have had many great memories and experiences, and
it will be something that I will never forget. Once I graduate, I want to get
my certification in the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigation. I
was recently hired at the District 7 Medical Examiner’s Office in Daytona Beach
as a Forensic Investigator/Forensic Technician. If it weren’t for my education
at Embry-Riddle I wouldn’t have been able to obtain an internship that later
landed me a job!
The Forensic Biology degree program at Embry-Riddle contains coursework and skills that are relevant to a wide variety of fields, as I discovered this summer. I have considered many career paths during my time at this university, as the major is diverse in its applications.
This summer I decided to branch out into Marine Biology, as I have always had an interest in this field and have experience as a Scuba Diver. I knew that I would love to have an experience that was truly international, as I hope to someday work abroad. For these reasons, I chose to Intern with Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, located in the islands of Samos and Lipsi, Greece. This incredible location opened my eyes to the diversity of options completing field work and has helped me to narrow down my career path.
With this internship I was able to shadow and learn from graduate students from all over Europe, as well as work on my own long-term project. My project assisted with the recovery, protection, and replanting of the seagrass species Posidonia oceanica, an important environmental engineer. This project took nearly 2 months to complete, culminating in me leading the replanting action day with the assistance of 10 other interns and supervisors. With great autonomy, I could also assist with multiple other projects and surveys when my schedule allowed, including those regarding Environmental DNA, mapping of Pinna nobilis, and the impacts of microplastics. Filling out weekly reports and completing presentations for this internship also greatly prepared me for employment in the field.
All my coursework at Embry-Riddle assisted me with the completion of this internship. The knowledge of the research process and the understanding provided by the biology courses and technical report writing came into great use. Being able to use the knowledge one has learned in the classroom proved to be very rewarding. I am very happy with what I’ve done during this internship, and I believe this internship will greatly help me with upcoming classes, as I now have a greater background and expanded knowledge base with which to solve problems.
This summer I interned at Rolenn Manufacturing, Inc. from May to July. Rolenn is a medical device manufacturing company that specializes in making parts for medical devices and implants. They work with many customers internationally making parts for devices that will eventually help save people’s lives. My role at Rolenn Manufacturing was an inspector. As an inspector, we have to inspect all the parts that are shipped by Rolenn. My specific role as an inspector was to inspect a part known as 60000591-001, known as 591’s for short. This part is extremely small, with a diameter of about 1.880 mm to 1.910 mm to be exact.
I also learned the process of the stages of inspection and how to fill out the related Quality Assurance paperwork. While I only did the final inspection for the parts at Rolenn, I did learn the overall process of production and inspection. I was trained and involved in the inspection and shipping part of the process. Inspection involved using a microscope and computer to measure dimensions of very small parts. Once the parts were inspected, they were cleaned and shipped with 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% deionized water. The parts were then weighed and averaged to make sure the correct amount was being packaged and sent to the customer.
To complete the process, the parts are shipped by the inspection department along with all the associated quality assurance paperwork. I learned that it takes many people and pieces of a puzzle to ft together to have this process run smoothly. The classes I have taken at Embry-Riddle really prepared me for work assignments. At Rolenn, we had to keep up with due dates which parts had to be shipped out. Organizational skills and rules I learned int he lab helped me to prepare for this internship.
My experience with the cooperative education/internship program at Embry-Riddle was great. All of the assignments made sure I was getting the most out of my internship experience and helped me along the way. The learning objectives we had to prepare beforehand were extremely helpful in guiding me in the direction I wanted to go throughout this internship. They allowed me to set goals that I wanted to achieve while interning and kept me accountable. The reports have allowed me to share what I have learned over the summer. I enjoyed everything that came with this internship and it showed me that I am more than ready to start a career working in a lab environment.
In the summer of May 2019 I interned at the Lemuel Martinez’s 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There is a DA office in each of the three counties including Sandoval, Cibola and Valencia. I worked for Sandoval County as it was the closest to my house. At the DA office there are many attorneys that work under Lemuel Martinez. These attorneys represent the State in criminal cases for all cases whether it be a felony or misdemeanor offense. During this internship I got to assist these attorneys with building case files, as well as observe them in both the District court, for felony offenses, and Magistrate court, for misdemeanor and below offenses. In preparing cases I would work with the different legal assistants and take on my own cases as I would prepare them for a variety of attorneys. Most cases I prepared were domestic violence cases including battery, deprivation of property, violation of restraining orders, etc.
The majority of my classes for my forensic biology degree did not provide much knowledge for this internship as my degree has a heavier emphasis on the sciences. However, the mock trials done in both my Instrument Analysis and Trace Evidence class as well as my Investigative Methods and Forensics Science class allowed me to understand the procedures and components of a trial. My Intro to US Legal System and US history classes gave me a good foundational understanding of our laws and constitution. I think it’s important to note I am yet to take the procedural law class for my degree which would have been very useful. I think my class work did show me the importance of forensics in law and how they coincide.
This internship was
important for both my career and educational plans. After I graduate I plan to
go to law school and this internship at the DA office not only introduced me to
what Attorneys do but also allowed me to put my foot in the door to intern
again with them while in Law School so I could get more hands on work with the
Attorneys. This internship was overall a great experience and I am glad I got
to work there.
The forensic biology program has so many possible career options, which may cause some difficulty in finding an internship if a career path is uncertain. Thankfully I have always known I wanted to work in the medical field so this was the perfect internship for me. My internship with Vive Peru combined my love of travel with my desire to learn more about the medical field. With this program, I was able to shadow doctors from several different specialties in multiple hospitals and clinics in Trujillo, Peru, assist with large medical campaigns, and volunteer in a small community adjacent to Trujillo.
Due to the nature of the program, shadowing doctors in hospitals in a foreign country, it was very structured and the only decisions I could make was which doctor I wanted to shadow that day. However, creativity could be used for the volunteer efforts. I could do all of the decision making for what activities we were going to do with the children we worked with, with only one constraint: the activity had to be related to public health. Due to the structure of the program, the learning objectives were set out for each of the hospitals we visited based on what the previous volunteers experienced in the past.
My microbiology course at ERAU was beyond helpful when working in the lab and explaining what was going on to my interpreter who did not understand any medical or biological sciences. I was able to point out differences between the way the labs run in Peru versus what we were taught in class. Many of the differences throughout the hospitals and clinics, not just in the labs, were due to lack of funding and supplies. It was definitely a culture shock to see the lack of sanitation and sterilization, but that only happened because they did not have enough supplies to use a new set of gloves or dental tools or even agar plates for each patient.
I am so grateful for this internship and opportunity. Peru was a beautiful place with beautiful people. The program does an amazing job of connecting volunteers with the community and making a real difference in the community. Many of the patients at the free medical campaigns said the only go see the doctors when these medical campaigns were held as they could not afford to see a doctor otherwise. The children in the community where I volunteered are so grateful for us and were so sad to see us leave. Learning about medicine and watching doctors work was amazing but seeing the change that my contribution made to the community was much more fulfilling.
When I started in the forensic biology program at Embry-Riddle, I didn’t exactly know what direction I wanted to go in. Since the major is filled with many different paths including biology, chemistry and even law, I wanted to explore my options. To challenge myself, I looked for an internship involving chemistry because after taking 5 semesters of chemistry in the course of my undergraduate career, I felt like it would be beneficial for me to explore the field outside of the classroom.
After searching around, I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to be an intern at Desert Tox LLC. This private drug testing laboratory was just what I was looking for.
My supervisor Mike was extremely open in allowing me to decide what I wanted to learn in this internship. With his help, we put together a list of objectives and before I knew it, my internship had started. I was able to observe drug sample collections, run validation studies and file reports, and see what it really took to run a successful lab.
I was very grateful for my chemistry background when coming into this internship. When I observed these tests and figured out how they worked, I was able to do further research on the exact mechanisms of detection that were being used and really understand not only what the machines were doing but what molecular mechanisms were at work. This was a really good feeling.
Student Madison Babione at her internship with Desert Tox, LLC.
This internship gave me a deeper understanding of not only chemistry but also one of the directions I could go in my career. It also helped me with my senior year biology classes because after learning what I did during my internship, it actually became extremely relevant in my senior year coursework. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to work there.